Dan Rather is coming — where else? — to Charlottesville, as the keynote speaker at a big liberal celebration. You remember him, don’t you? If not, or if your memory of the episode of fake news of which he was the star is a bit dim, take a quick look here for a refresher.
In breathless anticipation of his arrival, C-Ville, a local weekly, conducted a telephone interview with the liberal eminence. Read the whole thing, if you must, but the following paragraph captures the essence of Rather’s journalistic style and, er, substance. In response to the question, “What were you thinking when you were seeing what was going on with the Unite the Right rally here last summer?” Rather replied in part:
One of the things I was thinking about when this all happened last summer: Sometime in the late ’70s there was an incident in Skokie, Illinois, in which a group of neo-Nazis paraded in the streets. The president [Jimmy Carter] or certainly members of his administration roundly denounced them. They were dealt with swiftly and roundly condemned by practically all aspects of decent society. Now you contrast that with what’s different now. In the case of Charlottesville, the president, unfortunately, and I think it’s very unfortunate, tried to do some false equivalence between the neo-Nazis and the peaceful protesters who were there. So it’s a big difference.
I, too, think that what the president said, initially, about the mess in Charlottesville was unfortunate, but on one key fact he was much closer to the truth than I, Dan. (To see why I call him “I, Dan,” you’ll have to read my blog post linked in the first paragraph above.) I, Dan’s fanciful notion that Charlottesville-the-event consisted of violent neo-Nazis confronted by “peaceful protesters” is pure agitprop, farther from the truth than Trump’s clumsy effort at equivalence. In I, Dan’s Charlottesville there were no Antifas bearing, and using, clubs. The neo-Nazis and alt-right troops came to provoke violence, and they succeeded beyond their fondest hopes.
I, Dan also completely misses the most relevant aspect of the comparison with the responses to the Nazis march in Skokie, Illinois, in the summer of 1978. True, the condemnation of the Nazis was nearly universal, was universal if you exclude the Klan and similar nutcase fringes, and there was no attempt to suggest some sort of equivalence between the Nazi marchers and their Skokie critics. And the city of Skokie, like many in Charlottesville, tried unsuccessfully to keep the marchers out. A big difference, however, is that in 1978 most liberals (there were few “progressives” then) supported the ACLU’s First Amendment defense of the right of the marchers to march, even in full Nazi regalia that bitterly offended the local Jewish community.
Not so in today’s Charlottesville, where progressive opinion (there are few actual liberals left) pretty solidly supports legal and even extra-legal (those Antifas again) attempts to keep objectionable people and ideas out, and to drive them out if they succeed in coming.